21 July 1959 |
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
|Height||176 cm (5 ft 9 in)|
|Weight||90 kg (14 st 2 lb)|
|Source: Rugby League Project and Yesterday's Hero|
Paul "Fatty" Vautin (born 21 July 1959) is an Australian television presenter and commentator and formerly a professional rugby league footballer, captain and coach. He has provided commentary for the Nine Network's coverage of rugby league since joining the network in 1992 and has also hosted The Footy Show since its beginnings in 1994. An Australian Kangaroos test and Queensland State of Origin representative lock or second-row forward, Vautin played club football in Brisbane with Wests before moving to Sydney in 1979 to play with Manly-Warringah, whom he would captain to the 1987 NSWRL premiership. He also played for Sydney's Eastern Suburbs, and in England for St. Helens.
After playing, Vautin became a sports commentator for the Nine Network, calling rugby league games alongside Ray Warren and the also recently retired Peter Sterling. Later, during the Super League war, he was hired to coach Queensland in the 1995 State of Origin series and took the Maroons to an upset 3–0 whitewash of hot series favourite New South Wales.
According to Vautin, he earned his nickname "Fatty" soon after joining Manly in 1979. While being shown around Brookvale Oval by club secretary Ken Arthurson, he walked past retired Manly premiership captain Fred Jones who was in conversation with club and Kangaroos fullback Graham Eadie. Jones asked Eadie "Who is that fatty?", and the name stuck. On an episode of The Footy Show in 2013, Vautin told the other panelists that other than his wife of 28 years Kim and his elderly mother, almost everyone he knows calls him either Fatty or Fat rather than Paul.
Vautin made his name in the late 1970s, playing for the Wests Panthers in the Brisbane Rugby League premiership, the Manly Sea Eagles in Sydney, St. Helens in England, Queensland in the State of Origin and the Australia national rugby league team. He finished his playing career with the Roosters in 1991.
Vautin was a "toiler"; a player who does a lot of work in defence. He was also an aggressive and explosive runner of the ball. Never the largest player on the field, as a State of Origin and International representative Vautin had the respect of his opponents such as NSW and Australian lock forwards Ray Price (Parramatta Eels) and Wayne Pearce (Balmain Tigers). He was also the type of player who preferred playing to training as part of his fitness program, something that often irked his coaches early in his career (though they also overlooked the fact due to his tireless on-field efforts).
Vautin attended Padua College in Brisbane, where, in a pointer to his later life, he was known as one of the "class clowns". During his school years, Vautin represented Queensland in games against New South Wales on tours to Sydney, with some games played as curtain raisers to State or International games at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
He was graded as an 18-year-old by defending Brisbane Rugby League team Wests as a Lock in 1977, sometimes playing opposite another talented young lock from Valley's destined for future greatness as a Five-eighth named Wally Lewis. Vautin was signed by Manly-Warringah club Secretary Ken Arthurson in late 1978 after Arko had viewed a tape of him scoring a 75-metre try from a scrum for Wests, and moved from Brisbane to play for the defending NSWRFL premiers starting in 1979. Vautin also had an offer to join the North Sydney Bears in 1979, but after seeking advice from his father, signed with the 1978 Sydney premiership winners instead.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Under the coaching of Frank Stanton, Vautin was included in the first grade squad for a pre-season tournament in Newcastle at the insistence of Ken Arthurson, despite Stanton not actually wanting the rookie in the team for the tournament as he felt his fitness wasn't what it should have been. Vautin won Stanton over after coming on as an injury replacement early in the first game and pulling off over 30 tackles.
After playing Reserve Grade for Manly in the opening round of the 1979 season against St. George at Kogarah Oval, Vautin was used as a replacement in the Sea Eagles first grade game against the Dragons, with the defending premiers going down 34–9. The next week Vautin made his run on debut for Manly in the Second-row in a 10–6 win over Newtown at Henson Park. The Sea Eagles couldn't recapture their 1978 premiership form and finished 7th, one and a half games out of the finals race.
Manly improved to 6th but again finished out of the finals in 1980, but returned to finals action in 1981, going through to the Minor Semi-final where they lost a brutal encounter with Newtown. The semi against the Jets was marred by an all-in-brawl with opposing front rowers Steve Bowden (Jets) and Mark Broadhurst (Manly) shown on television going at it like two prize fighters, with Broadhurst coming off second best thanks to two head butts from Bowden.
Vautin went on to play in Grand Finals with Manly in 1982 and 1983, going down to Parramatta both times . In 1983, he was voted the Dally M Players' Player of the year, as well as Representative Player of the Year
Paul Vautin was named captain of Manly-Warringah in 1985 by coach Bob Fulton. The season was also the only one of his career in which Vautin wore shoulder pads while playing, forced by a shoulder injury which required pain killing injections before each game. His 1986 season was cut short when he broke his left forearm in Round 8 against Penrith at Brookvale. Fatty made his return on the bench in a 16–8 win over Canterbury-Bankstown in Round 24, but Manly would lose their last three games of the year, their season ending after losing the Minor Preliminary Semi to Balmain 29–22.
Vautin enjoyed success in leading Manly to an 18–8 victory over the Canberra Raiders in the 1987 Grand Final, the last played at the Sydney Cricket Ground in front of 50,201 fans. Before the 1987 season had started, the Manly club board had wanted coach Bob Fulton to install 1986 Kangaroo tour second rower Noel Cleal as club captain, replacing Vautin who had captained the side since 1985. Fulton stood firm however and Vautin remained as captain (Cleal missed the first 8 games of the season while recovering from a broken arm suffered on the Kangaroo tour). During the season, many described the relationship between "Fatty" and "Crusher" as 'frosty' as a result of the captaincy saga, though both players denied this. In Cleal's first game of the season in Round 9 against Eastern Suburbs at Brookvale Oval, he scored the match winning try by grounding a Vautin grubber kick, with Fatty among the first to congratulate him.
Always a larrikin, when Vautin and Canberra captain Dean Lance came out for the toss of the coin before the Grand Final, he stated after winning the toss "Oh we'll bat" in reference to the game being played at the famous cricket ground, before choosing Manly to run toward the Paddington End (south end) of the ground in the first half. Vautin later gave a memorable victory speech after the win, saying that Canberra had a fairy tale run to the Grand Final, but that "Last page of the book was ripped out", causing some laughter from those on the podium, as well as his team mates. In his biography Fatty: The Strife and Times of Paul Vautin, he recalled how he had thanked virtually everyone he could think of in his speech, but realised later that night after returning home from the celebrations at the Manly Leagues Club and watching a replay of the game on video that the one person he forgot to thank was coach Bob Fulton. Vautin rang Fulton in the early hours of the morning to apologise for the oversight.
Following the grand final victory, he traveled with Manly to England for the 1987 World Club Challenge against their champions, Wigan. The home side won a try-less game 8–2 in front of almost 37,000 fans at Central Park. During the match, Vautin was tackled over the sideline in front of the main grandstand. From there, the Wigan players tried to push him over the fence into the crowd, sparking an all-in brawl.
Vautin played his last season with Manly in 1989 before being pushed out of the club following his support of former team mate, coach Alan Thompson who was eventually sacked after just one year in charge in favour of former Wigan and New Zealand national team coach Graham Lowe. Despite playing for Queensland in their clean sweep of the 1989 Origin series, and being vice captain of the Australian teams successful tour of New Zealand in 1989, Vautin was offered a contract for 1990 that was reported to be considerably less (almost be half) than his reported 1989 salary of A$95,000 and he reluctantly left the club to join Eastern Suburbs. With Vautin's departure from the club, Lowe would name Michael O'Connor as the new captain of the Sea Eagles.
Eastern Suburbs Roosters
After reluctantly leaving Manly, he signed with the Eastern Suburbs Roosters for a two years (even spending time in reserve grade after being dropped by coach Mark Murray, a former Qld and Australian team mate), before retiring at the end of the 1991 NSWRL season. His last game for the out of contention Roosters was a 42–8 loss to eventual first time premiers Penrith at the Sydney Football Stadium on 25 August, the final round of the season.
Vautin and Manly team mate Michael O'Connor both signed to play for St. Helens during the 1988–89 Rugby Football League season on 2 August 1988. Fatty would go on to captain St. Helens in his last match for them, a 27–0 loss to Wigan in the 1989 Challenge Cup Final played on 29 April 1989 at Wembley Stadium in front of 78,000 fans. It was the first time in Cup Final history that a team had been held scoreless. Vautin played 21 games for the Saints in 1988–89 and made his debut in English club football on 9 October 1988 in a 30–22 win over Hull Kingston Rovers at Craven Park in Hull.
Paul Vautin played in 238 first grade games from 1979 to 1991 (204 with Manly, 34 with Easts), scoring 21 tries, kicking 2 goals and 2 field goals. He played 21 games for St. Helens, scoring 4 tries.
State of Origin
It was at the State of Origin level where "Fatty" Vautin's performances were most notable. Vautin himself has commented on the passion that would be ignited whenever he pulled on his State representative jumper. Vautin made his Origin debut for the Maroons in Game 2 of the 1982 series. He was originally selected as the starting lock forward but was moved to the bench on the day of the game by coach Arthur Beetson in favor of Rod Morris who ended up putting in a man of the match performance. Vautin came on in the second half and, with Qld leading 8–7, scored the winning try for the Maroons that kept the series alive after New South Wales had won Game 1. Queensland went on to win Game 3 of the series at the SCG where Vautin again started from the bench.
In 1984, Vautin and Qld (and Manly) team mate Chris Close became the last Qld representative players to be selected for the annual NSW City vs NSW Country game when he was selected in the second row for NSW City for the game at the SCG, won 38–12 by City.
For the next nine years, with the exception of 1986 when he was not considered for selection due to his broken arm, he was a regular in those star-studded Queensland sides which included test captains Wally Lewis and Mal Meninga, as well as Gene Miles, Bob Lindner and Greg Dowling, and Manly team mates Chris Close, Dale Shearer, and produced many inspirational performances over 22 games, often as the unofficial vice-captain to Lewis. He had the honor of captaining the Queensland side in the first game of the 1988 State of Origin series at the new Sydney Football Stadium, and the first game of the 1990 series at Olympic Park in Melbourne (the first Origin game in Australia played outside of Brisbane or Sydney). Both times he captained the team was when Lewis was ruled out with injury. At the time he became only the third Qld Origin captain at the time alongside Beetson and Lewis.
Game 1 of the 1990 series was Vautin's last game of State of Origin football as he was sensationally dumped after Qld lost 0–8 to NSW after having won both the previous two series 3–0. It was the first time in Origin that either side had ever been held scoreless in a game.
Vautin made his test debut for Australia in 1982 in the First Test against New Zealand at Lang Park in Brisbane under the coaching of his original Manly coach Frank Stanton. After playing for Qld and Australia, helping Manly to 2nd on the ladder and then into the Grand Final against minor premiers Parramatta, he was surprisingly not selected for the end of season 1982 Kangaroo tour (it has been speculated that he was a victim of NSW v Qld selection politics that prevailed at the time, and that he was sacrificed in a trade-off for a NSW player to be selected). Vautin first knew of his omission from the team at Manly's 1982 presentation night. Club captain Max Krilich had been called on stage as it was announced that he would be the captain of the Kangaroos. Krilich saw the list and upon looking around the room, caught Vautin's eye and shook his head, telling Fatty of his non-selection. Seven Manly players (Krilich, Kerry Boustead, Les Boyd, Ray Brown, Paul McCabe, John Ribot and Ian Schubert) were selected in the 28 man touring squad.
He returned to the test team for Australia's mid-season tour to New Zealand in 1983, and in 1984 was selected for the second Ashes Test against Great Britain at Lang Park, copping an elbow to the face from replacement Mick Adams as he tackled the Lions forward, resulting in a fractured cheekbone during the 18–6 win which saw Australia retain The Ashes. Vautin's injury kept him out of the third test at the Sydney Cricket Ground, and caused him to miss 11 games of the 1984 NSWRL season. The game was notable for the "back alley" tactics from the Lions who seemed intent at times on playing the man and not the ball, with Aussie captain Wally Lewis a particular target of high tackles and swinging arms, while Mal Meninga was kneed in the back while scoring a try.
Vautin played 13 Tests during his career, touring New Zealand twice in 1985 and 1989. A broken arm suffered during the 1986 Winfield Cup, which sidelined him for three months, again caused him to miss the end of season Kangaroo Tour. In addition to the thirteen Tests he played for Australia, he played three tour games in New Zealand in both 1985 and 1989.
Vautin was selected for Australia in their successful 1988 Ashes series against the Great Britain tourists. As a result of being selected for the first test, Vautin missed playing in Manly's 30–0 demolition of Great Britain at Brookvale Oval only four days before the first test.
Paul Vautin was the vice-captain of Australia's mid-season tour of NZ in 1989, captaining the team in three tour games (Wally Lewis was the tour and test captain). Fatty captained the Australian team (coached by Bob Fulton) to a 50–18 win over a New Zealand XIII at the Palmerston North Showgrounds in the opening game of the tour. He would later captain the side in another tour game against Auckland for the only loss of the tour, the Australians surprised 26–24 at Carlaw Park, before captaining the team from the unfamiliar position of Five-eighth for a 28–10 win over Wellington at the Basin Reserve.
Vautin never scored a try in his test career. The closest he came was in the third and final test against New Zealand at the Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland in 1989, which would also prove to be his last test for Australia. During the second half of the game, front row forward Steve "Blocker" Roach made a break close to the half way and passed to Vautin with no one in front of him. Vautin raced down field and looked set to score until he was brought down in a desperate tackle just five metres out by Kiwi halfback Gary Freeman, though he was able to get a pass away as he was falling for Manly and Qld team mate Dale Shearer to score next to the posts.
During his career, Vautin often had to compete with players such as Ray Price, Wayne Pearce and Bob Lindner for the Australian Lock-forward position, and as such was often selected in the second row. Of his 13 test matches, Vautin played 8 in the second row, 4 at lock and one (a 70–8 win over Papua New Guinea in Wagga Wagga in 1988) from the bench.
In 2000, Vautin was awarded the Australian Sports Medal for his contribution to Australia's international standing in the sport of rugby league.
Loyal to his Channel Nine employer, Vautin was a vocal supporter of the Kerry Packer-backed Australian Rugby League during the Super League war which started in 1995. With no previous coaching experience, he was considered an inferior replacement for dual premiership winning coach Wayne Bennett who was originally named as coach of the 1995 Queensland State of Origin team, and with Queensland having lost the last three consecutive series and being given a handful of young and inexperienced players, Vautin and Queensland were expected to be easy prey for NSW, who could still boast almost half a side of international players as well as Origin and dual premiership winning coach Phil Gould. However, his coaching debut took a fairy tale turn when the young Maroons, without any of the stars from Super League-aligned clubs, completed a 3–0 series whitewash of New South Wales that year.
With the Super League players available for selection in the 1996 State of Origin series, Queensland were rated a chance of retaining their crown but lost the series 0–3. After losing the 1997 series 1–2, Vautin was replaced as Qld coach the following year by Wayne Bennett.
The Footy Show
Vautin has hosted The NRL Footy Show since 1994, propelling him to TV stardom. He suffered a serious concussion in 2005 filming for the show in a segment called "Dare-Devil Dudes", when he hit his head on concrete, with a helmet luckily minimising the damage. He did not host for a period of about 10 weeks.  Vautin later returned in the 2005 season of The Footy Show, but has vowed not to do any more dangerous or stupid stunts (at the prompting of his wife Kim who was concerned for his safety), limiting himself to general silliness such as eating hot foods.
From 1992 to 2004, he was a mainstay of the Channel Nine match commentary team along with Peter Sterling and Ray Warren, calling club, Origin and international games. Since the concussion incident, he has focussed on his Footy Show appearances but currently is still part of the broader Nine expert commentary team for big fixtures like the State of Origin.
In 2010, Vautin returned to the commentary box for a Brisbane Broncos home game at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane after some of the regular team went down with the flu. He has since become a semi-regular part of the commentary team for Broncos or Gold Coast Titans games. He is used for games in south east Queensland due to currently living on Queensland's Gold Coast with his wife Kim, whom he married in 1985.
Speculation existed that 2007 would be Vautin's last season as host of The Footy Show.  As of 2015 however, Fatty continues as co-host of the show alongside Erin Molan, as well as regular panalists Darryl Brohman and the shows resident comedian, former Wests Tigers and Cronulla Sharks Winger Beau Ryan.
- Colman, Mike (1992) Fatty: The Strife and Times of Paul Vautin, Ironbark Press, Sydney
- Vautin, Paul: Turn It Up! The life and thoughts of Paul "Fatty" Vautin; Pan Publishing, Sydney, 1995. A collection of articles Vautin has written between late 1993 (including his appearance and well-publicised catch in an all-stars cricket match in Tasmania) and the end of 1994, covering some of his past and views on current events of the time.
- Andrews, Malcolm (2006) The ABC of Rugby League, Austn Broadcasting Corpn, Sydney
- Big League, State of Origin 25 Years Collectors Edition 1980–2005, News Magazines, Sydney
- "Chapter 14: TALKING SPORT". Retrieved 2008-08-11.
State of Origin